Dan Baxter remembers clearly the first time he stepped onto the track at Fort William Historical Park in Thunder Bay for Relay For Life. Excitement was bubbling inside him.

“The experience of walking that Survivors’ Victory Lap to the applause of all the people around the track is just an amazing thing,” he says.

Dan had signed up for the 12-hour overnight fundraising event because he wanted to make a difference in the fight against cancer. In the four weeks leading up to Relay, he raised close to $1,400 for the Canadian Cancer Society.

“When you get a second chance at life, you want to make it count,” he says. “You want to give back, so that we can stop people from getting cancer, and help others get through their journey with cancer.”

Dan’s own journey with the disease began in 2008, when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. After undergoing chemotherapy in Thunder Bay, doctors referred him for a stem cell transplant in Toronto, some 1,400 km away. But the former locksmith had been on disability pension since his diagnosis. So he got help from the Canadian Cancer Society to do the paperwork for Northern Health Travel Grants offered by the Ontario government.

“The Society arranged my flights, accommodation, and even transportation to and from the airport. Everything was taken care of,” says Dan. He also relied on Society volunteer drivers to get to the hospital in Thunder Bay.

So now Dan is brimming with energy to give back to the Society. Despite complications from leukemia that have impaired his mobility, for the last two years Dan has worked tirelessly for Relay For Life as a fundraiser, a volunteer and a survivor. This year, he is co-chairing a committee that organizes activities for survivors during the event in addition to raising awareness about Relay and collecting donations.

Recently, Dan lost an aunt and friends to the disease. His mother is currently battling breast cancer.

“It’s just another reason for me to give back,” he says. “I’m carrying on where they can’t.”